SternisheFan (2529412) writes "Mashable's Alex Fitzpatrick writes: An Apple patent that paved the way for pinch-to-zoom functionality on the iPhone or iPad should not have been awarded in the first place, said the United States Patent and Trademark Office in a preliminary ruling made public late Wednesday. The patent is among six that lie at the heart of Apple's most recent lawsuit against Samsung, one of its top competitors in the mobile phone and tablet marketplace. Samsung was recently ordered by a jury to pay Apple $1.05 billion in damages for copyright infringement as a result of that case, but that number may change as a result of the USPTO's decision this week. The patent, number 7,844,915, has widely been characterized in the media as "the Pinch-to-Zoom" patent, but that's a misleading generalization. As The Verge previously pointed out, the patent only covers software that detects whether only one finger is making a scrolling action or if two fingers are doing some other action.
That leads to pinch-to-zoom and other functionalities, but it isn't pinch-to-zoom itself. And, importantly, it leaves wiggle room for Apple's competitors in mobile software (read: Google) to find other ways to program pinch-to-zoom style actions on their operating systems. Should Apple fans be freaking out about the decision? Not yet. The USPTO's ruling is only preliminary, meaning the patent stays a patent for now. Apple will likely appeal the decision, and even if they lose that appeal, most patents that face re-inspection by the USPTO remain generally intact."
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